This review was originally published on July 03, 2013…
Meredith (Katie Groshong) lives in a house with two other young women, Alicia (Starina Johnson) and Ruth (Dale Rainey), and the head of the household, referenced only as the Man (Stephen Jackson). A life separate from common civilization, the household seems to exist in a time long since past. As the Man warns the women that they must never leave, for it is too dangerous out there, Meredith pines to finally make her move to freedom. And when she is visited by the bear that everyone else deems imaginary, it becomes clear that it is now or never.
At the same time, Meredith remembers an earlier time, seemingly still trapped, but happy in her youth alongside a mother (Allyce Wix) slowly fading away. Her mother’s idea of freedom was entirely different, and when she made her move, the consequences left Meredith in her current plight. Still, Meredith sees the parallels between herself and her mother, making her decision to escape even more pressing.
Jeff Wedding’s A Measure of the Sin is shot on Super 16mm film, and that choice alone manages to evoke another time and place. Something about that grain and faded colors that makes the film feel like it was made in the ’60s or ’70s, just recently uncovered for our perusal. It’s an image that’s a character itself, not too crisp to flatten the scenes into sameness.
Which lends itself to the poetically ethereal feel of the film. So much of it feels like a dream, albeit one with a lot of voiceover. Understandably so, the film might be too experimental for most tastes without a voice to walk you through it.
And the film is also not shy when it comes to exposing the female form. Nudity abounds, but it works in that it matches up with the almost anachronistic, frontier-town feel to the family’s homestead. When taking a bath requires someone to pour the hot water in, and water is at a premium anyway, it makes sense that folks would bathe in front of each other, or together. Besides, the ladies populating this tiny universe seem to exist alone in the solitude created by the man, and thus the natural freedom of nudity isn’t such an odd thing to see. For me, it may seem strange, but they don’t seem bothered by it.
A Measure of the Sin is poetic bordering on experimental, and it’s also not an easy narrative to swallow even if it was more straightforward than it is. The subject matter contained within is challenging, no matter how it is interpreted. It’s not a comfortable film in any sense of the word, but there is something to it all that makes it work beyond its possible interpretation as just an obtuse art film.
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